Garoojigi: A Tale of Legendary Libido

Garoojigi: A Tale of Legendary Libido (2008), Directed by Sin Han-sol. (IMDB)

The character Byeon Gang-soe is often summarized as a kind of “Korean Casanova” because both figures are famous for the same thing—the “legendary libido” alluded to in the title of this film—but beyond that one trait, the two have very little in common: while Casanova was a priest, a man of letters, a spy, and a con man, Byeon was a worthless good-for-nothing bum.

Well, he’s not quite for nothing: Byeon’s wife Ongnyeo is basically Korea’s Wife of Bath (from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales), right down her nasty habit of screwing her husbands to death, and her sexual curse was such that no man could keep up with her until she met Byeon. Not that they get to enjoy much wedded bliss: Byeon is lazy and shifty, and a misdeed against a neighboring village’s jangseung—a guardian totem pole supposed to protect the village from evil spirits—ultimately leads to his death halfway through the tale: the rest concerns the grisly comedy of Ongnyeo screwing a whole series of her later suitors to death and then having to get rid of the bodies.

(Unfortunately, as far as I know, nobody’s thought to make a movie out that grisly/sexy denoument, though I think it’s prime Netflix material!)

Little wonder that, despite being one of just twelve pansori works created in the 18th century, it’s almost never performed anymore: like with Boccacio’s Decameron, ribald humor has gone somewhat out of style in our era. Still, reinterpretations are becoming more common in the 21st century: one, a live stage musical titled *Madame Ong*, has wowed audiences in Korea and France alike. ([You can see bits of it here.](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg6ZAxzlZ2o)) Another is basically an adult movie that comes up when you search the title “Garoojigi,” which isn’t likely to inspire much adventure, at least not for a D&D group. But the first of the three 21st century reinterpretations was *Garoojigi: A Tale of Legendary Libido*.

Before I go any farther, I’ll just note that the movie certainly has its weak points: it departs radically from the original tale of Byeon Gang-soe, replacing a fair bit of its ribaldry and grimness with a mix of sappy romance and sex comedy very much in the style of the American Pie franchise. Worse is the costuming, which is both completely ahistorical and in many cases, outright atrocious. There’s even an admittedly fairly awful scene near the end that was already overtly racist when the movie first came out, and which has aged even more poorly since.

With all these flaws, why do I recommend the movie? Because of what the film does manage to capture: the goofy comedy at the heart of the absolute chaos into which a remote village can be thrown by the introduction of a single magic item that shows up at exactly the wrong time, offering a limited, coveted resource to a group of people who’re desperate to get their hands on it.

In other words, it’s basically a ready-to-go adventure scenario. Mind you, if it were me, I’d drop the 18+ content entirely: if you choose not to, you’ll need to handle it with caution, because such stuff isn’t a good fit for many game tables. Still, even completely dropping the adult themes, you have in this film the skeleton of a great scenario you can drop into any locale on the map! The adventurers come across a village (or, better yet, drop by one of the PCs home village) only to find it in the midst of some kind of turmoil that the locals hurriedly cover up as soon as they notice someone’s walked into town.

But despite the villagers’ best efforts to cover things up, the party runs across evidence of strangeness afoot: locals at the village drinking house gossiping when they think nobody’s listening, say, or corpses strewn around outside of the village, or way more empty houses than one would expect, or maybe just simmering conflict among the locals that occasionally erupts into something more. Slowly, they manage to piece together what the fuss is all about, whether it’s hidden treasure, a magical item, or something else. For a more bellicose party—or just players who want some combat to spice up the session—it’s easy to mix in some potential for combat: maybe a dokkaebi, a gumiho, or a wayward spellcaster is behind the tumult, and maybe they could summon some backup support to tangle with the PCs, slowing down their unraveling of the ultimate mystery. Or, with the right group, the adventure could be completely a social and skill-based outing, with locks needing picking, utility spells needing casting, and skills being used to break through the mystery, as a break from a combat-centric game and a chance for player characters to flex different muscles. Either way, it’s a solid, fun framework for an adventure!

Oh, even if you desexualize the main magic item in the film, it will still make a pretty funny bit of treasure: there are lots of situations where a potion that lets a character drink a whole river—or instantly urinate one—could be a pretty useful… if a player was willing to have their character use it, and then never hear the end of it.

Here is a clip to give you a sample of the film:

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Appendix K

The Koryo Hall of Adventures draws on Korean history and culture, as well as the experience of living in Korea, and not all players and Game Masters are familiar with this cultural background. Appendix K, named as a riff on Gary Gygax’s now-celebrated “Appendix N,” attempts to provide a list of references to help better visualize this campaign setting. In this series, Gord Sellar covers movies, television series, books, music, and other works that offer inspiration, adventure seeds, ideas, helpful visuals, and more.

Gord Sellar is a writer and musician who has lived in South Korea since 2002, and contributed energetically to the cross-pollination between its local SF scene and the English-speaking world. In addition to academic work on Korean SF, he has blogged extensively on the subject, and has served as a co-translator, editor, and support person for multiple major efforts to translate Korean SF to Western audiences (such as Kaya Books’ anthology Readymade Bodhisattva and Clarkesworld’s 2019 Korean SF translation series). He wrote the screenplay and musical score for the first Korean-language adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story, the award-winning “The Music of Jo Hyeja” (dir. Jihyun Park, 2012), and his adventure Fermentum Nigrum Dei Sepulti is now available from Lamentations of the Flame Princess (US webstore | EU webstore).

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